Friday, October 28, 2011

Indonesia Ink

It all started last year when I met some of my girlfriends for dinner at Vietopia, a Vietnamese restaurant (that serves the most amazing cashew chicken in a pinapple...but I digress). It was when leaving said restaurant that I looked to the left and noticed this sign for a tattoo shop. I tucked away a business card from the door in my wallet to mull over for the next several months. So, if you don't like where this story is heading, you should blame Miranda and her posse for taking me to the Vietnamese restaurant. If you do like the story, it was all my idea. Moving on.

I was soon to discover that Durga is a renowned and respected tattoo artist, especially for his work with the Dayak tribes of Kalimantan and the Mentawai tribes of Sumatra. He goes to these remote areas where the tribal structure and lifestyle are still very much alive. There he learns the traditional art of hand-tapping and the meaning behind each tattoo. I did my research on Durga and his shop, watching documentaries, looking at his work, becoming his 'friend' on facebook...the guy is legit. I made up my mind that sometime during my second year, I would get my time in Indonesia memorialized with a tattoo from his shop.

It was through my facebook link with Durga that I learned Ania Jalosinska was going to be a visiting artist at Durga Tattoo for the month of October. This native of Poland has tattooed in many countries, including making regular appearances at a shop in Milwaukee. I was immediately fascinated by the 'sketchy' look of her work. I loved that her art didn't look like a traditional tattoo but more like a free-hand painting. I sent her an email. Suddenly, the 10 months I had to plan a tattoo turned into a one-month window. Let the butterflies and indecision begin!

Ania wrote back immediately, saying that she would love the opportunity to do some traditional Indonesian/Javanese images. So, we began the planning process via email. Before she arrived in the country, I had already put together some initial ideas - and then changed them approximately every five minutes.
It was time to call in some experts. I knew for certain that I wanted a common Javanese proverb in the old Javanese script. As a lover and teacher of languages, this seems appropriate. I also wanted to represent some of the beautiful batiks and culture found throughout the island of Java. One Saturday morning over a post-run breakfast, me and my four Indonesian girlfriends (the infamous posse that started this whole thing) solidified my plans. Srikandi - a traditional shadow puppet figure (think Laura Croft of Java...she's a bad ass with a bow and arrow), Mega Mendung - a beautiful cloud motif batik, Parang - another batik that was originally worn by Javanese royalty (everyone at work calls me "Putri Jawa" - Javanese Princess), the symbol of the Indonesian police, and this well-known Javanese proverb: "Love comes from habit".

I then went to my expert of Javanese language, another English teacher at the police language center and one of my very good friends, mbak Niken. She painstakingly went through the process of writing out the proverb in her mother tongue - I should explain that Javanese is the original language of the island of Java but is now rarely used. Very few people can read or write the ancient script anymore, so I was very blessed to have Niken.

I had two consultations with Ania once she arrived and Jakarta and shook off her jet-lag. We discussed the elements, placement, and size. After (I'm ashamed to say) more than a few changes about each of these, she was finally able to put together this idea on her computer. Perfect. The next step was to print out the computer version and redraw it to give it Ania's signature look.

Step 3, make the stencil and pick the place. Did I mention that this final product, while being everything that I wanted, was far larger than the original image in my mind's eye? Ah we go... After talking to my eldest brother, I decided I wanted a less conspicuous placement, so Ania lined up the stencil just below a tank-top line. This meant the majority of the tattoo would be on my left ribcage...ouch. Here we go???

Now comes the fun part, to see if I'm really tough enough to take an estimated 5 hours of tattooing in one of the most sensitive areas on the body. I put in my headphones and sought distraction from Aretha and her soul sisters. The other three fellows from Jakarta, Michael, Lisa, and Meghan came along for support. They took pictures and video of the process for me. They stuck through most of the first sitting (Michael stayed for all to make sure I made it home without passing out. Thank you!), an impressive 4 hours.

I won't lie, I was so nervous that I was sweating bad enough to wipe off the stencil. After the first few lines, however, I got used to the sensation and was mostly able to get lost in my music. Here you can see Ania making fun of me because I looked like I was sleeping. I was definitely not sleeping.

At about hour three, Ania announced, "Now, you'll feel a different sensation." This is tattoo-speak for, "You're going to wish you were never born." This was true. At around 10 pm, I called uncle. The pain wasn't so much the issue. After doing the shading (the part the caused the most pain), my body had gone into cold sweats, involuntary shaking, and nausea. When I spoke up, Ania said she was impressed that I had gone that long. We worked out a time for me to return in the morning. With one more sitting of about an hour, she said those sweet words, "We are finished." Hallelujah. While stopping the night before was probably the best idea, going back the next day was exponentially more painful because the skin was already so raw. The results were well worth it, though:

It turns out that it is really difficult to photograph your own rib cage, so forgive the shaky pictures. Can you see all of the elements? Goal number 7, finished.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

And now for something different

Some amusing pictures...

True I suppose, but I don't see the connection to a child's flatware set.

Another oxymoron. My first hooka at the non-alcohol bar.

This happened within walking distance from my apartment. Is this when you know you've made it big?

My ojek drivers have unionized. Taken on the way to visit friends across town.

Attempting to show how bad traffic was. Maybe not my brightest idea to take picture from the back of an ojek during rush hour.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Thin Khaki Line

"You teach English for the police? That's something," said my new friend, an Indonesian photographer who grew up homeless on the streets of Jakarta, as we sat in a tattoo parlour on Jalan Cikini. Yes, I suppose it is.

After a year in Indonesia, I've acclimated to most things. I'm used to fish heads for lunch, families of five weaving by on a motorbikes, monkeys on leashes with creepy baby doll heads on, and complete strangers asking for photos, my Facebook account, and my marital status. But, at Sebasa, The Police Language School, nothing every becomes ordinary. Only two months into my fellowship, and the adventures have already begun.

Two weeks ago, I was surprised by a text from my lil mother (my counterpart, Ibu Soegma), informing me that I was invited by the chief to attend the launching of their very first teleconference English course, the next morning. I could only imagine how this would work. The goal was to reach mid-level officers from all 31 provinces of the archipelago with a twelve-week English course. Lil mother asked me to prepare a short speech about the best way to learn English. This is the equivalent of asking a writer what his favorite book is, but I've learned the concept of a speech is a bit more fluid here, so I didn't sweat it too much. The next morning, before departing to Police HQ, the chief told me I only needed to speak between 20-30 minutes, up to me. That's when I started sweating.

We arrived at HQ and Lil mother and I followed the chief to Kapolri's (chief of all the Indonesian National Police) teleconference room. It was just like in the movies; wall to wall screens slowly filled up with video feed from regional police stations all over the country. As we waited for equipment checks from Papua to Aceh, each of those screens then filled up with 15-20 officers. 15 officers times 31 provinces....that's...carry the one...over 450 mid-rank officers, all looking at me.

The chief kicked things off with a ceremonial speech about the launching and curriculum design. Shortly there after, he turned the mic over to me to talk about, well, whatever sounded inspiring. I tried my best to decipher the chicken scratch notes that I jotted down that morning on the way to work. English...yes, it's very good to learn...blah, blah, blah. I kept that up for about 5 minutes, mostly talking about the vast benefits English language skills bring to Indonesian police officers. Then, the chief opened the floor for questions. The first was for me. I got this.

"Ms. Jackie, how do you feel we can improve relations between Embassy security services and..." (I can't even remember what he said after this point, I was still busy trying to write down a phonetic pronunciation of his rank and name). Sr. Adjunct Commis...wait, what? Embassies? Um. I definitely don't got this. I think I massacred his name and then talked in circles for a bit about not having experience in that realm. The next question was also for me, this time from Bali.

"Ms. Jackie, may I (and 450 of my closest friends) have your phone number?" I flashed a desperate look to the chief and lil mother amid the silent laughter of all the little police officers on all 31 screens. The motioned for me to go ahead. "Let me give you my email address, ok?" I haven't been back to the big room with all the flashy technology, and I'm okay with that for now.

The reason I haven't been back is because Sebasa is swamped with another special program right now in addition to our regular students and classes. For ten days, we're conducting an intensive English course for 150 officers who are going to Darfur, Sudan. They will join a UN mission as a Formed Police Unit (FPU), and they will work at an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp for one year. At the chief's orders, myself and Lisa, another Fellow new to Sebasa this year, will work with the FPU to expose them to native speakers.

We are using curriculum materials designed by the UN to practice real tasks they will encounter daily, like: writing patrol reports, radio speak, and map reading. Today, I taught how to use the future 'going to' to report future actions to HQ when confronted with a situation on patrol.

Echo 5, this is SO2, message, over.
SO2, this is Echo 5, send, over.
Echo 5, we have a man blocking our path. He is bleeding. We are going to take him to a hospital.

I can't get enough of this stuff.

Today, Lisa and I made a trip to the Embassy to talk with our bosses from the Dept. of Justice. They talked about how we can grow future programs for English learning with the police. So, it seems the adventures will not be ending any time soon. Fine by me.